WESTERVILLE — At every opportunity when it seemed Valley’s back was against the wall, the Indians accordingly made the plays to flip the script and put the pressure right back on their opponent.
Connecting on two first-quarter touchdown passes, Worthington Christian staked an early 14-0 advantage over the visiting Indians in the two programs’ first-ever meeting.
It was unclear at the time, however, that WC’s final offensive score would occur on junior Adam Dunson’s 70-yard catch and sprint to the end zone with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter.
From that moment on, Valley turned the game on its head and captured momentum — forcing four Warrior turnovers and limiting the hosts to just one yard of second-half offense prior to their final drive in the Indians’ 27-21 win.
The second-round playoff win advances Valley to the regional quarterfinals of the Division VI, Region 23 postseason bracket for the first time since 2015.
Valley head coach Darren Crabtree said following the win that the defensive turnaround for his team started with an increased efficiency in its pass rush.
“Defensively, I thought in the second half we just dominated the line of scrimmage,” Crabtree said. “Our pass rush guys did a great job. We had some things happen for us offensively that worked, able to get the ball in the end zone and make it work.”
A pair of fumble recoveries by Austin McIntosh, one by Nick Bowles, and an interception by Carter Nickel equaled the four turnovers Worthington Christian committed during Saturday’s contest.
Arguably the biggest of the four for momentum’s sake was McIntosh’s fumble recovery at the Warriors’ 30-yard line just before halftime.
Valley capitalized on the short field after a WC unsportsmanlike penalty when two plays later, George Arnett scored from two yards out to tie the game at 14-apiece with 29 seconds left.
Crabtree said facing teams in the week-in, week-out daunting Southern Ohio Conference Division II schedule helped his team prepare for when it would need to make plays in difficult situations come the postseason.
“Going into the week of the Minford game 1-4, to be 4-4 now — it’s a credit to these guys buying into that we could get this done,” Crabtree said. “We didn’t play with any emotion down 14-0 in the first quarter. For them to find it in themselves to compete, get back and when we had to make things happen — by playing teams at the level of Wheelersburg, Waverly in preparation — we were able to make plays and get back in it.”
Ty Perkins caught five passes from Nickel for a team-high 100 yards, including a 14-yard second-quarter touchdown grab over a Warriors’ defender on fourth and five.
WC’s Braden Anderson intercepted a Nickel third-quarter pass for an 85-yard pick-six to give the Warriors a 21-14 lead with just 12 seconds to play in the period.
Down but not out, Nickel regained his composure by leading the Indians on a four-play, 49-yard scoring drive — capped by his 11-yard touchdown run on their next possession.
Chase Ruby connected on the point-after to tie the game for the second time at 21-21.
By game’s end, Nickel’s 229 yards of total offense and two touchdowns proved vital in keeping the Warriors’ defense on their toes.
“Nickel made some nice plays with his feet, threw some nice balls to (Ty) Perkins especially in the first half. (Jayden) Duncan makes an unbelievable circus catch for a first down,” Crabtree said. “He’s (Nickel) growing up every week. Only a sophomore and made a couple mistakes tonight, but afterwards he picked himself up, came back and made some plays to help us win the game.”
Two Warrior turnovers on their ensuing two possessions would set Valley up in short fields for the game’s most crucial moments.
Despite being held to just 36 yards on the ground, Arnett gave the Indians their first lead with just 4:39 remaining on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Valley would lead 27-21 after the ensuing PAT was blocked with less than five to play.
But, just as they had up until that point, the Indians’ defense held strong for the remainder of the win — and continued their shutout of the Warriors since the 3:44 mark of the first period.
Barnesville High School will be the location of the Indians’ regional quarterfinal game on Saturday (Oct. 24) — with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
Barnesville — the fifth-seeded squad — earned its spot in the Region 23 quarterfinals as a result of its 63-20 second-round win over Marion Elgin.
“Don’t know a thing about Barnesville besides they won tonight and they’re a good football team,” Crabtree said. “We need to concern ourselves with what we can control, and that’s getting better this week in practice. Three-hour road trip is better than not playing next week.”
Valley 27, Worthington Christian 21
Valley 0 14 0 13 — 27
Worthington Christian 14 0 7 0 — 21
WC — Adam Dunson, 20-yard pass from Hobie Raikes (Grant Woodfin kick), 7-0 W (9:07 1Q)
WC — Adam Dunson, 70-yard pass from Hobie Raikes (Grant Woodfin kick), 14-0 W (3:44 1Q)
V — Ty Perkins, 14-yard pass from Carter Nickel (Chase Ruby kick), 14-7 W (11:11 2Q)
V — George Arnett, 2-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), 14-14 (:29 2Q)
WC — Braden Anderson, 85-yard interception return (Grant Woodfin kick), 21-14 W (:12 3Q)
V — Carter Nickel, 11-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), 21-21 (11:18 4Q)
V — George Arnett, 1-yard run (kick blocked), 27-21 V (4:39 4Q)
|Yards (Pass-Rush)||266 (155-111)||338 (212-126)|
|Time of possession||26:57||21:03|
|Penalties||8 for 80 yards||8 for 73 yards|
RUSHING — Valley: Carter Nickel 16-74 TD, George Arnett 13-36 2TDs, Cody Metzler 2-1, Jayden Duncan 1-0; Worthington Christian: Braden Anderson 11-75, Hobie Raikes 10-59, Jordan Gray 2-(-8)
PASSING — Valley: Carter Nickel 8-20-2-155 TD, Ty Perkins 0-1-0-0; Worthington Christian: Hobie Raikes 10-16-1-212 2TD
RECEIVING — Valley: Ty Perkins 5-100 TD, Jayden Duncan 1-24, George Arnett 1-19, Cody Metzler 1-12; Worthington Christian: Adam Dunson 6-158 2TD, Adam Eisel 1-36, Braden Anderson 3-18
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved